EMF Health-effects Research

Cellular phone interference testing of implantable cardiac defibrillators in vitro.

Bassen HI, Moore HJ, Ruggera PS,

Pacing Clin Electrophysiol 21(9): 1709-1715, 1998

An in vitro study was undertaken to investigate the potential for cellular telephones to interfere with representative models of presently used ICDs. Digital cellular phones (DCPs) generate strong, amplitude modulated fields with pulse repetition rates near the physiological range sensed by the ICD as an arrhythmia. DCPs with Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) pulsed amplitude modulation caused the most pronounced effect--high voltage firing or inhibition of pacing output of the ICDs. This electromagnetic interference (EMI) occurred only when the phones were within 2.3-5.8 cm of the ICD pulse generator that was submerged 0.5 cm in 0.18% saline. ICD performance always reverted to baseline when the cellular phones were removed from the immediate proximity of the ICD.

Three models of ICDs were subjected to EMI susceptibility testing using two types of digital phones and one analog cellular phone, each operating at their respective maximum output power.

EMI was observed in varying degrees from all DCPs. Inhibition of pacer output occurred in one ICD, and high voltage firing occurred in the two other ICDs, when a TDMA-11 Hz DCP was placed within 2.3 cm of the ICD. For the ICD that was most sensitive to delivering unintended therapy, inhibition followed by firing occurred at distances up to 5.8 cm. When a TDMA-50 Hz phone was placed at the minimum test distance of 2.3 cm, inhibition followed by firing was observed in one of the ICDs. EMI occurred most frequently when the lower portion of the monopole antenna of the cellular phone was placed over the ICD header.

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